This is Matt (towards the right) and me sitting on the concrete with the women waiting for noon to roll around so that they can get in line at the shelter so they can have a bed at night. These are the same women who desperately want work, but sometimes choose having a place to sleep inside and therefore end up losing their jobs. What would you choose?
It's not that the needs are growing, but rather than my awareness of the abundance and breadth of the needs is.
As I reflect on this past year of going down to the streets and spending time with those who are homeless, I see God's hand on every step of my journey. A year ago, I'm not sure I could have handled the bigness of the needs. I'm sure even now I am only scratching the surface.
I believe God knew that I was already getting so out of my comfort zone that he has slowly opened my eyes and shown me the depth of the need.
On the one hand, I'm grateful. It's amazing we live in a country where people who have no home are able to sleep inside overnight. It's amazing that we have food programs and people, churches, and programs who provide clothes, shoes, etc.
On the other hand, so much is lacking. There are great barriers on both sides to helping people who are homeless get out of the cycle. Getting jobs is hard. Whenever people tell me, "There are some people who don't want to work," I always say, "I think most people really do want to work. Some people have given up hope. What if you lost your job, your home, your support system, and then you looked for work for months or years, only to not find a job? After some point, wouldn't it be easy to lose hope and give up?"
You and I try to explain the problems of the homeless based on our experience.
We insert our world and our upbringing into their life. We think, I don't see how anyone could ever get that low, but we forget that many people start out life with a lot less resources than we have, so becoming homeless is much shorter of a jump.
While this response is normal, we are forgetting...
We forget that not everyone has extended support systems and people that would or even could afford to take them in if they got in a bind.
We don't think about how much our education, our cleanliness, our nice clothes, and our social skills play into our ability to get sustainable work that pays enough for us not only to survive but to thrive.
You see, we forget, or we don't understand, and so we try to explain away the difficulty and sadness of the reality of homelessness.
I can no longer do that -- even when I want to be detached, sitting on the street for hours with women who can't work because they choose a bed over their job prevents me from dissociating.
You see, homeless people to me are no longer a nuisance, or an inconvenient reality, but rather they are people with names, and faces, and stories, just like you and me.
And as I enter more deeply into their reality, I hurt more. I feel more inadequate.
And the truth is I am inadequate.
The more I see, the more I realize that I am just one person with one brain and two hands and two feet. I don't have solutions. I so badly want to snap my fingers and make everything better, I so badly want to fix the problems presented, I so badly want systems to change.
To whom much is given much is required.
This is taking on new meaning to me. I have been given so much. I was given so much love by my parents and family growing up. I was so unbelievably safe. I had the best education for which anyone could ask. I had beautiful clothes. I got a car when I turned 16. My dad paid for my college.
I could have stayed safe in this world, I could have remained insulated from the world of need outside my safe world. In many ways, it would have been easier. But in much deeper ways, in much more profound ways, it would have been harder, because trying to stay safe and protect myself from the reality of the need in the world is like trying to shut off a bull horn.
The world is calling to us.
Other people need us.
And I'm not only talking about the homeless men and women who call Dallas home, but the families stuck in poverty here, and then beyond our border, the 21,000 children dying daily from preventable diseases, or the 153 million orphans who need families. This is not about politics. We have buffered ourselves further by making deep human needs political. God wants to break down these walls so we start seeing the need just through the lens of being human.
We are the answer to these problems. You. Me.
We were given so much not just for ourselves but because we have the resources and connections and power and love to make a difference in people's lives.
And even in weeks like this one where I feel so small and so inadequate, I know I am here for a reason, and God's plan for restoration and healing is way bigger than mine. And he plans to do more through me than I can hope or imagine!
He plans to do more through you, too.
Join me, will you?